The Eastman School of Music received a special visit this week from one of the jazz scene’s most prominent drummers and composers, Peter Erskine.

Erskine, who is well-known for recording over 400 jazz albums with such renowned names as Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell, to name a few, has made an indelible mark on the contemporary jazz scene in the United States as well as abroad.

Erskine’s major performance career includes work with the Stan Kenton Orchestra and Weather Report. During the four years he performed with the latter, he helped record the Grammy Award-winning album “8:30.”

As part of his visit, Erskine performed on Wednesday with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Bill Dobbins. Erskine also performed in three separate sessions with the ensemble prior to the concert.

For professor of jazz studies and contemporary media studies Bill Dobbins, this was a great opportunity for Eastman jazz students to learn a great deal from one of the most renowned names in jazz circles. Performing with the musician introduced students to new angles of interpretation.

Of course, this isn’t the first encounter between Dobbins and Erskine.

“Peter was a guest drummer probably 15 times during the eight years I directed the West German Radio Band in Cologne, Germany,” Dobbins said. “I think he’s one of the most talented, versatile and creative drummers on the jazz scene today.”

Both have collaborated together in performances and arrangements of each other’s works. The concert even included some of Dobbins’ arrangements of Erskine’s music.

Erskine has not only recorded albums with some of the most influential and popular names in jazz, but he is also keeping busy by composing for new media. He’s primarily working on compositions for the theatre, including musical scores for Shakespeare’s “King Richard II” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He’s also composed pieces for dance and animation, clearly proving Dobbins’ description as a versatile musician.

Erskine’s credits also include having recorded 12 solo albums and publishing several instructional videos and pedagogical books with Alfred Music Publishing and the Hal Leonard Corporation.

He has won several awards for his jazz drumming and currently teaches at the University of Southern California, while conducting jazz drumming seminars and clinics all over the world. Erskine even serves as the Jazz Drumming Consultant for the Royal Academy of Music in London.

“I think Peter will inspire our students’ own creativity and versatility,” Dobbins said in a press release. “I also think he’ll be able to give a lot of insight into making a living in the contemporary music world.”

Dobbins hinted at the possibility of future visits from Erskine to Eastman. In fact, this week’s visit is the second for Erskine, who made a prior trip in 1998.

Figueredo can be reached at ofigueredo@campustimes.org.



Time unfortunately still a circle

Ever since the invention of the wheel, humanity’s been blessed with one terrible curse: the realization that all things are, in fact, cyclical.

Zumba in medicine, the unexpected crossover

Each year at URMC, a new cohort of unsuspecting pediatrics residents get a crash course. “There are no mistakes in Zumba,” Gellin says.

Notes by Nadia: The myth of summer vacation

Summer vacation is no longer a vacation.